Most Hall of Fame inductees are remembered alongside the team with which they had their greatest successes. However, in the NFL, there are many legendary players who had success with more than one organization. Tom Brady is one of only two NFL stars who have won five Super Bowl titles, but Brady has played his entire career with the New England Patriots. The other player, Charles Haley, played both for the 49ers (where he won two rings), and the Dallas Cowboys (where he won the other three). Many of the top players in football have played for more than one team, and are renowned for both; like Marcus Allen with the Raiders and the Chiefs.
As there are many players who are synonymous with one or more teams, there are many other ex-NFL stars that have forgettable stints with some teams. Not many fans remember Roger Craig’s season with the Los Angeles Raiders, or Randall Cunningham’s season with the Cowboys, or Randy Moss’ half-season with the Dolphins, but these seasons are part of the players’ careers. Several other Hall of Famers have forgettable or forgotten portions of their careers, and here are 20 Hall of Fame inductees who have segments of their careers where they played for teams and not many fans remember the players having been there.
20 Steve Young – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Steve Young began his pro football career in the USFL, starting for the Los Angeles Express. Steve Young is also known for playing for the San Francisco 49ers, and winning two Super Bowls as a backup to Joe Montana before winning a third Super Bowl as the starter. Young also captured the Super Bowl and the League MVP awards, but few fans know that Young started his NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
When the USFL folded, Young’s NFL rights were owned by the Bucs, as he was selected in a supplemental draft of USFL and Canadian Football League players. With the Bucs, Young was considered a bust because the team failed to thrive with him at the helm. Fortunately, 49ers coach Bill Walsh saw something in Young, and brought him to the Niners, and as they say, the rest is history. Young flourished in San Francisco, and played his way into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, despite his two subpar years in Tampa.
19 Franco Harris – Seattle Seahawks
Franco Harris played 12 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. During that time, Harris made the Pro Bowl nine times, won four Super Bowls, was the Super Bowl MVP once, and was the recipient of “The Immaculate Reception”; one of the most legendary plays in the history of the NFL. What many do not know is that Harris did not finish his career with the Steelers as Bradshaw, Swann and Stallworth did. After 12 seasons in Pittsburgh, the Steelers felt that Harris had nothing left to offer, so he was released and signed with the Seattle Seahawks.
As it turned out, the Steelers were correct, as Harris’ time in Seattle was uneventful. Needing 362 yards to surpass Jim Brown as the NFL’s career rushing leader, Harris barely gained half of that, and he retired 192 yards short of the mark while he watched Walter Payton gain nearly 1,700 yards and claim the top spot on the career rushing list. Harris is known as a Steeler, but for one forgettable season, Harris was a Seahawk.
18 Kurt Warner – New York Giants
Every football fan knows that Kurt Warner came to the NFL from bagging groceries, and led the Rams team known as “The Greatest Show on Turf” to a Super Bowl victory, winning the MVP Award in the process. Most fans also know that Warner left St. Louis, landed in Arizona, and became the first QB in league history to lead two separate teams to the Super Bowl. What many don’t know is that in between the Rams and Cardinals was a season with the New York Giants.
Warner signed with the Giants as the starting QB, which he wasn’t in St. Louis. However, while he rose to the starting job with the Rams, he was demoted in NY after a two-game losing streak in favor of rookie QB Eli Manning. Though Warner had a better winning percentage than Eli, Kurt left NY for Arizona, and took the Cardinals to the Super Bowl; one year after Eli defeated the undefeated Patriots.
17 Earl Campbell – New Orleans Saints
Earl Campbell was born in Texas, played for the University of Texas Longhorns, and then plied his professional trade with the Houston Oilers. Earl Campbell was Texas, and with the Oilers was considered the best power running back not named Jim Brown in professional football. However, over time, his relationship with the Oilers soured, and Campbell demanded a trade, which he received. The man who became synonymous with Texas finished his career with the New Orleans Saints.
By the time that Campbell got to the Saints, he was nowhere near the back that he had been in Houston, and in 24 games with the Saints, Campbell ran for fewer combined yards than he did during any full season with the Oilers. Earl retired a few yards short of 10K for his career, but he felt that his health was more important than his stats. Luckily, he was still good enough for induction into the Hall of Fame.
16 Tony Dorsett – Denver Broncos
Tony Dorsett finished college with a Heisman Trophy, a national championship, and as the college football career rushing leader. Dorsett was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys and became everything the Cowboys could have wanted and more, including the first player in league history to win a college national championship and a Super Bowl championship in consecutive years. Unfortunately, Dorsett’s relationship with the Cowboys soured, first over money, and then over the signing of Herschel Walker, which limited Dorsett’s carries and playing time.
Friction between Dorsett and Walker led to Tony demanding a trade, and his being sent to the Denver Broncos. With Denver, Dorsett proved that he was still the back that he had been with Dallas, but his career was ended due to an injury to his knee. Seemingly, Dorsett had the last laugh due to his being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while Walker has not been so honored.
15 “Bullet” Bob Hayes – San Francisco 49ers
In 1964, the Dallas Cowboys took a chance on an Olympic Sprinter with “unrefined football skills”, and “Bullet” Bob Hayes became a Hall of Fame Wide Receiver and a Super Bowl champion. Hayes became one of the top receivers in football, but like many, as he aged, his skills began to erode. The Cowboys traded Hayes to the 49ers as the team began looking at other receivers and kick returners.
With the 49ers, Hayes was not what he had been with the Cowboys, and the Niners waived him after four games. Hayes’ career ended after leaving the 49ers, but it would be years before he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Some felt that his personal issues delayed his induction, but he eventually got what he deserved; that being a place among the greats of professional football. Hayes still holds Cowboy receiving and returning records, and is still listed as one of the best receivers in the history of the franchise.
14 Ken Stabler – New Orleans Saints
When football experts think about what they consider “True Raiders”, Ken Stabler usually tops the list. Stabler led the Raiders to several playoff appearances and a Super Bowl victory, and was the fastest QB to 100 wins as a starter until Terry Bradshaw achieved the mark more quickly. However, as with many players, Stabler’s skills started to erode, and the Raiders traded Stabler to Houston. What is not known is that Stabler’s career actually ended with the New Orleans Saints.
Stabler was in his late-30s when he arrived in New Orleans, and the Saints were one of the worst teams in the NFL. Stabler was able to turn the team around, but never found the success that he had with the Raiders. As with the Raiders and the Oilers, Stabler was replaced by a younger player, but this time, his career was over. Years passed before he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, but Raider fans remember “The Snake” and all of the legendary moments that he brought with the team.
13 Brett Favre – Atlanta Falcons
Brett Favre was a legendary QB who established many of the career passing marks in the NFL, and is one of only two QBs to have passed for over 70K yards in his career. Favre is known as the Packer QB who was good enough to keep Aaron Rodgers on the bench. After leaving Green Bay, fans followed Favre to the Jets and Vikings, but few football fans remember Favre's rookie season. Before signing with the Packers, Favre spent a single dismal season with the Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons drafted Favre two picks before the Packers, who had intended to draft him. With the Falcons, Favre had zero completions in four attempts with two interceptions, including a pick-six on his first pass attempt. Favre’s only other snap resulted in a sack with an eleven yard loss. Favre was traded to Green Bay, completed his first Packer pass to himself for a seven yard loss, and then began a streak of 297 consecutive starts at QB on his way to the Hall of Fame.
12 Tim Brown – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tim Brown is the career Raiders leader in nearly every receiving category, and a six-time winner of the team’s Commitment to Excellence Award, which is a team record and one better than previous record holder Marcus Allen. Tim Brown was as synonymous with the Raiders as any player before him, which is why it was strange to see Brown in another uniform shortly after the team played in the Super Bowl. One season removed from the team’s Super Bowl loss, Brown was wearing the uniform of the team that defeated the Raiders, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After the 2003 season, Brown was released by the Raiders because he did not want to accept a smaller role in the offense. Brown signed with the Bucs and his former coach Jon Gruden. In Tampa, Brown had the least productive full season of his career, and once the season was over, Brown re-signed with Oakland so that he could retire as a Raider.
11 Eric Dickerson – Atlanta Falcons
Eric Dickerson holds the NFL record for rushing yards in a season with 2,105 yards. Dickerson started his career with the Rams before being traded to the Colts and becoming the fastest player to reach 10K rushing yards in NFL history. After a series of disagreements with the Colts, Dickerson was traded to the Raiders in the midst of the Marcus Allen/Al Davis feud. What is little known is the fact that after one season with the Raiders, Dickerson was traded to the Atlanta Falcons.
Though Dickerson was older, with the Falcons, he was never really given a chance to prove his worth. Dickerson spent much of the season on the bench, receiving a small number of carries. After the season, his career was over, even though he was traded again. Dickerson left the game as the second-leading rusher in the sport, and not many people remember his year in Atlanta.
10 Cris Carter – Miami Dolphins
Chris Carter started his career with the Philadelphia Eagles, but personal demons led the Eagles to release Carter. Carter then signed with the Vikings, turned his life around, and became one of the best receivers in the game and part of, at the time, the highest scoring team in league history. Carter left the Vikings as the team’s all-time leader in all of the major receiving categories, but his career was not over.
When Carter couldn’t strike a deal with HBO to appear on Inside the NFL, Carter signed with the Miami Dolphins. Carter only played a few games with the Dolphins due to injuries and sickness, and after the season, Carter retired from the game. At the time of his retirement, he was second all-time in receptions and receiving touchdowns, and one wonders where he would have finished if he had not had his personal problems while he was with the Eagles.
9 Ronnie Lott – New York Jets
Ronnie Lott starred at USC before being drafted by the San Francisco 49ers. After winning four Super Bowl rings with the Niners, Lott went back to the Los Angeles Coliseum (USC’s home) to play for the Los Angeles Raiders. Lott played a single season with the Raiders, and instead of retiring, Lott signed with the New York Jets. Lott’s first season in New York was as good as most DBs would ask for, but was slightly below Ronnie Lott’s standards.
Lott played an additional season in New York, but age and injuries slowed Lott and told him that the end of his career was near. Lott attempted to play one more season, but a preseason injury convinced Lott to retire from the NFL. Ronnie Lott is one of only five players to appear on all four San Francisco Super Bowl championship teams, and he set the standard for modern DBs, but few remember his season in New York.
8 Deion Sanders – Washington Redskins
Little known about Deion Sanders is that he is the second player in NFL history to win Super Bowls in consecutive years with two different teams. He is also the second player ever to score a touchdown six different ways, and is the only player to both catch a pass and intercept a pass in the Super Bowl. After playing with Atlanta, “Prime Time” won Super Bowls with the 49ers and with the Cowboys. Deion ended his career with the Baltimore Ravens, but in between was a single season with the Washington Redskins.
After being released by the Cowboys in a cost-cutting move, Deion Sanders signed a 7-year, $56 million contract with the Redskins, but he only played a single season before retiring to the broadcast booth. Though he was still able to contribute to his team, he decided to retire, but after three years away from the game, he returned with the Ravens before retiring for good.
7 Reggie White – Carolina Panthers
“The Minister of Defense” made his name with the Philadelphia Eagles. When White left the Eagles as a free agent, he told the world that God would direct him to his next location. Reporters thought that White was crazy when he signed with the Packers, who were not very good at the time, but within a few years, White earned a Super Bowl Ring. One season later, White retired from football, but he returned one year later and signed with the Carolina Panthers.
In his one season in Carolina, Reggie White amassed five sacks, which gave him 198 for his career. He retired after his single season in Carolina as the career leader in sacks, and his mark held for three seasons until it was passed by Bruce Smith. Smith passed away a few years after his playing days were over, and he was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame.
6 Richard Dent – Philadelphia Eagles
Richard Dent was one of the Super Bowl Shuffle Chicago Bears. Dent was the MVP of Super Bowl XX, and was a Chicago icon. After ten seasons in Chicago, Dent moved around the league a bit, including gaining a second Super Bowl ring with the 49ers in 1994, even though he spent the entire season injured and played only two games for San Francisco. After San Francisco, Dent played returned to Chicago, played for the Colts, and spent his final season in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles.
By the time that Dent arrived in Philadelphia, he was in his late 30s, and was seen as nothing more than a designated pass rusher. He did not start any games, and was brought into the game in obvious passing situations for the purpose of applying pressure on opposing QBs. Unfortunately, age and injuries had diminished Dent’s abilities, and he retired after his season with the Eagles.
5 Thurman Thomas – Miami Dolphins
There were 22 Buffalo Bills players who were with the team for all of the Bills’ four consecutive Super Bowl losses. One of those players was Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas. Thomas finished his career among the career leaders in a number of playoff categories, despite the fact that he played poorly in three of the four Super Bowls. However, Thomas did not end his career in Buffalo. After eleven seasons, Thomas signed with the Miami Dolphins.
Midway through Thomas’ season with the Dolphins, Thomas suffered a career-ending knee injury. Prior to suffering the injury, Thomas’ production was well below what it had been during his peak years in Buffalo. Thurman Thomas retired second in career playoff rushing yards and third in career playoff receptions, and still sits with the most playoff receptions for a running back. Currently, he also sits 15th in regular season career rushing yards, though he might fall two slots before the end of the 2017 season.
4 Emmitt Smith – Arizona Cardinals
Emmitt Smith is professional football’s all-time leading rusher. He has gained more yards than any running back in football history, a record that he has held since 2002. He helped the Dallas Cowboys to three Super Bowl Championships, and set the rushing record in a Cowboys uniform, but once the season was over, the Cowboys released Smith and he signed with the Arizona Cardinals.
Smith was injured during his first season in Arizona, but during his second season, he posted numbers that showed the league that he was still as good as he ever was. Though he still appeared to have some football life left, Smith retired after two seasons in Arizona. He left the game having set a number of running back records that appear to be untouchable including career rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and playoff rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, and a portion of that came thanks to the Arizona Cardinals.
3 Art Monk – Philadelphia Eagles
Strangely, Art Monk had one of the longest waits between his retirement and his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, considering that he retired with the second-most receptions in NFL history. He would have been the record holder except for the fact that Jerry Rice caught 122 balls that season and surpassed Monk by two catches. Monk was one of the few players who appeared in all three of the Redskins Super Bowl victories, winning with three different quarterbacks. However, Art Monk finished his career with a season in New York with the Jets, and then a season with the Eagles.
Monk appeared in three games for the Eagles with one start. In those games, Monk caught 6 balls, giving him 940 for his career, but if he had caught three more of the 12 passes that were thrown his way, he would have finished the season with the career receptions records, but he was passed by Rice, and finished the season and his career in second place on the career receptions list.
2 Jerry Rice – Seattle Seahawks
Jerry Rice won three Super Bowls with the 49ers with two different quarterbacks, and Jerry and each of the QBs were named MVP once each. After leaving San Francisco for Oakland, Jerry Rice helped lead the Raiders back to the Super Bowl for the first time in nearly 20 years. The year after playing in the Super Bowl, the Raiders’ record fell to 4-12, and with Rice upset about his role in the offense; he requested a trade, which he received.
Six games into his 20th season, Rice was traded to the Seattle Seahawks. While with Seattle, Rice showed flashes of the greatness that he displayed with San Francisco and Oakland. Following the season, Rice explored the possibility of signing with the Denver Broncos, but he was unwilling to be at the bottom of the team’s depth chart, so he opted to retire. He left the game as the greatest wide receiver in history, and he set records that will never be approached.
1 O.J. Simpson – San Francisco 49ers
O.J. Simpson left football second only to Jim Brown in career rushing yards when he retired. When Simpson originally arrived in Buffalo, his coaches were not sure how to use him and he struggled during his first three seasons. However, when his coaches made him the focal point of the offense, Simpson became the best running back in the league. After leading the league in rushing for the fourth time in his career, Simpson suffered an injury that shortened the following season and then, he was traded to the 49ers.
Injuries and age limited Simpson’s abilities and as a result, he was not the running back in San Francisco that he was in Buffalo. Simpson retired after the two seasons with the 49ers, and sadly, one of the greatest running backs the game had ever seen only appeared in a single playoff game and never got the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl.
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